Can Dogs and Cats Taste Sweets?
In dogs and cats, however, the sweet taste receptor is not tuned to respond to the same chemicals that activate a human sweet receptor. In fact, it doesn’t appear to be tightly tuned at all. While our sweet taste receptors are activated by sugars (sucrose, fructose and glucose), they aren’t really activated by some other non-nutritive sweeteners like saccharin or aspartame. However, dog and cat receptors are activated by both nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners!
One thing that does appear to be true for humans is that we have more than one type of sweetness receptor. A recent paper published in Current Biology reports the discovery of a second type of sweetness receptor — one that responds to recently discovered “artificial” sugars such as sucralose (Splenda) and advantame. We may have yet another one in addition to those two!
We have been fortunate enough to get access through our friends at Fido Naturals (www.fidonaturals.com) to some interesting videos showing how different animals respond when about twenty different natural & artificial sweeteners are applied directly onto their tongues . At this point you might think I’ll simply say “oh look everyone reacts the same way so let’s forget all this fuss about dogs preferring artificial over natural sugars… or any other such nonsense…” But no – it turns out even these videos show individual differences among dogs AND cats!
The Background on Sweet Taste Perception
Taste is a sensation that involves both the chemical and physical senses. A molecule has to fit into the right “lock” (the receptor) and then twist in such a manner that it is recognized by the taste system as being sweet (or bitter, or salty, etc.).
The receptor for sweet tastes are found on specialized cells found in taste buds, which can be located throughout the body. The most well-known of these structures are those on our tongues—we actually have them in our mouths all over, including cheeks and throats. Interestingly enough, these receptors are also found on other organs including the gut and pancreas. You may be wondering how we know animals other than ourselves can taste sweet things if we don’t see them licking sugar cubes or sweets? It turns out there are ways to study what happens when certain stimuli activate specific receptors without even having to call an animal into your lab to participate! Let’s take a look at how they do this using some studies as examples.
Tasting Sweet Substances
There are five sweet receptors that animals can have. The number of these receptors each animal has corresponds to the range of sweetness they can taste. For example, while pigs and humans both have all five types of sweet receptors, chimps only have four; cats and dogs both have two.
But here’s the thing: just having a lot of sweet receptors doesn’t automatically mean you’ll find everything sweeter than someone with fewer receptors. This is where those genes come in again: a species’ genes affect how sensitive the animal’s taste buds are to sugar, regardless of how many sweet receptors they may actually have.
What this means is that even though dogs and cats might not be able to taste as many things as we do (and especially compared with other mammals), they’re still enjoying everything they can taste at its fullest!
Not every pet, or even human, likes the same types of foods. That’s why veterinarians, scientists, and other experts study things like animal nutrition and the taste preferences.
So what does this mean for pet owners? Well, it may help you identify if your dog or cat has a sweet tooth. Maybe they’ll come running to the kitchen when they smell something sugary you’re preparing. Or maybe they’ll brush past it on their way to some steak or chicken.
Pet parents can also pay attention to other signs that may indicate whether a dog or cat likes or dislikes a food. For instance, do they scarf down their kibble as soon as you put it in the bowl? Do you need to work hard to get them to eat treats or canned food? Do they go completely nuts for any table scraps that fall off the table? These are all positive indicators.
For cats and dogs who don’t seem interested in their normal food, you can try adding more water or some tuna juice (canned with water) to make it more aromatic and enticing. Another trick is warming up wet foods slightly so that the aromas are released more easily. You might even consider switching up flavors between meals (for example, trying turkey instead of beef).Can Dogs and Cats Actually Taste Sweets? | Yes! However, First We Need a Quick Definition
We all know that dogs and cats don’t usually eat sweets. But why? Do they not like the taste? Or is it something else altogether?
The answer is both simple and complex: All mammals have taste receptors for sweetness, but dogs and cats don’t have a sweet tooth. So how does this work, exactly?
The first thing we need to do is define what it means to “taste sweet.”
First and foremost, there’s a difference between the taste of sugar and the chemical composition of sugar. There are many chemical compounds that are chemically similar to sugar but don’t necessarily taste sweet to humans, such as sucralose and stevia. This leads us to believe that it isn’t just the presence of specific molecules in our mouths that leads us to perceive sweetness, but rather it’s the presence of specific molecules coupled with specific receptors in our tongues.
Receptors in our tongues bind with specific molecules in order to send a signal to our brains about what we’re tasting. In other words, sweetness isn’t just about the presence of certain molecules—it’s about how those molecules interact with our receptors, specifically a receptor called
Can dogs and cats taste sweets?
The short answer: Yes!
However, to understand the long answer, we need to take a look at some definitions.
When we’re talking about “taste,” we’re not just talking about the sense of taste. We’re also talking about smell and texture. That’s because the process of tasting something is so much more than just putting something in your mouth and deciding whether it’s sweet or salty. It’s also about how you smell it and how it feels in your mouth. And since texture is such an important part of our own perception of taste, it should come as no surprise that it’s just as important to animals, too. For example, if you’ve ever wondered why your cat likes to nibble on plastic bags instead of munching on those expensive cat treats, it could be because they have similar textures—so the cat gets confused!
We also need to define what we mean by “sweet.” A lot of people think that sweetness is just its own category of food—but that’s not true! In reality, sweetness is actually a combination of several different flavors that are all lumped together under one heading: sweet. These include sucrose (the sweet stuff in sugar), lactose (
Did you know that dogs and cats can taste sweets? It’s true! However, in order to answer this question, we need to first define what we mean by “sweet.” I know, it’s a little anticlimactic, but here goes:
Sweetness is the sensation of a solution that contains sugar. When you eat something sweet, it activates your sweet taste buds (also called papillae), which are located on your tongue.
As far as we know, dogs and cats have sweet taste buds just like humans do, so they’re able to taste sweetness. That said, they don’t identify things as sweet in the same way we do. For example, if you eat a piece of chicken, you don’t think “Oh, this is so savory!” If you eat a piece of cake, you think “This is so sweet!” Your dog or cat might not make those same associations, even though the food tastes equally good to them.
In fact, studies suggest that dogs and cats don’t really care about how sweet something is; instead they care about how concentrated it is with sugar. So when your dog asks for more cookies, it’s not because he thinks they’re super sweet; it’s because he wants more sugar!
Is there anything better than sharing a little something sweet with your pet?
The answer is no, there isn’t.
But you might have wondered if your cat or dog can actually taste the sweetness of that cookie crumb or bit of chocolate cake you just gave them.
And yes, they can! But first, we need to dig into the definition of “sweet.”
When humans define “sweet,” we’re usually talking about foods that contain sugars, like glucose and fructose. But for animals, sweetness refers to the flavor produced by compounds called amino acids. So even though cats and dogs can’t taste sugars like we do, they can taste umami—the savory flavor of amino acids. And carbohydrates like grains and potatoes contain amino acids too, so when our four-legged friends tuck into some bacon or bread or spaghetti sauce, they’re tasting sugar in its own way.
It’s no secret that we humans love the sweet stuff. Whether it’s a scoop of ice cream or a slice of cake, we’re always down for desert. But what about our pets? Can animals actually taste sweetness? Well, we’ve got the answers you need.
First, let’s talk about how animals sense and analyze taste to begin with. All animals have specialized cells that are called taste buds, which are located on the tongue (and in some cases in other parts of the mouth). These taste buds can detect specific flavors: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Another flavor is called umami (sometimes referred to as savory), which is a meaty flavor associated with glutamate (a common amino acid found in protein-heavy foods like meat and cheese). The umami flavor was discovered by a Japanese scientist in 1908, but it has been recognized as a primary taste in many countries since then.
So do dogs and cats have these taste buds too? Yes! Research has shown that all mammals have similar sensitivity to tastes like sweetness, sourness, and bitterness. But there’s more to it than just presence or absence of taste buds—animals also have different sensitivity levels. Cats are known to have better senses of taste than dogs (
When it comes to human food preferences, we’re all just a bunch of sugar addicts. Our sweet tooths are strong and, frankly, out of control. We love our sugar so much that we’ll argue with anybody who says we shouldn’t have it (cough, cough, dentists).
But what about our pets? Are they just as obsessed with sweets as we are?
For the longest time, scientists thought that animals didn’t have a sweet tooth at all. They believed that dogs and cats were incapable of tasting sweetness because they didn’t have taste buds for it. But recently researchers discovered that cats do have taste receptors for sweetness—so what about dogs?
We turned to Danielle Bernal, DVM, Chief Veterinarian at Good Pet Parent, to find out more about whether or not dogs can actually taste sweets (and if so, how much should you give them?). And yes: dogs and cats can taste sweets. However, that doesn’t mean you should give yours any. Here’s why.
Do you know about the five tastes?
Sure, you do—sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. And you’ve probably heard that dogs and cats can only taste salty and sour.
But what if we told you that there’s more to the story?
There is! It’s a little complicated, but here’s what’s going on: mammals—you and your pooch included—have a certain type of cell on their tongues called a “taste receptor cell.” These cells are what allows us to taste the five basic flavors (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami). However, different animals have different numbers of these types of cells. For example, humans have around 10 times as many taste receptor cells as dogs do. So while we can enjoy a broader range of flavors than our furry friends can (or so the conventional wisdom has been), the research indicates that it’s not exactly that simple!
See where we’re going with this? It turns out that dogs don’t just have receptors for salty and sour flavors; they actually have them for sweet flavors too! Cats do as well! So yes—dogs and cats